29th Sep 2023

Fate of nature restoration law punted to plenary vote

  • The EPP is the largest group in the parliament and striking a deal over the nature restoration law would depend on how many members dare to break the party line in the future plenary vote (Photo: European Parliament)
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MEPs on the environment committee hit a stalemate on Tuesday (27 June) with a dead-heat 44-44 vote on the controversial nature restoration law, leaving its future in the balance.

The EU regulation sets specific targets to restore degraded land and sea areas through measures such as rewetting drained peatlands or increasing urban green spaces — but it has recently faced resistance from lobby groups, various member states and parliamentary opposition lead by the centre-right European People's Party (EPP).

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Tuesday's committee vote showed that there was no majority to reject the law, as demanded by the EPP.

Following votes on amendments to the commission's proposal in mid-June, the final vote on the report prepared by socialist lead MEP César Luena was tied by 44-44 votes, falling short of a majority required to receive the committee approval.

There are 88 MEPs in the environment committee, and, therefore, the report was not adopted either — pushing the fate of this legislation to the next plenary session in July where all MEPs will be able to vote on the law.

Two parliamentary committees had previously rejected the nature restoration proposal.

But EU countries have already reached a common position in the EU Council, despite Poland, the Netherlands, Italy, Finland and Sweden's resistance to the law.

The EPP has argued that the restoration law would harm food security and strategic goals, including renewables deployment and mining critical raw materials — although this narrative has been repeatedly debunked by scientists, advocacy groups and the EU Commission itself.

"I am deeply dismayed to see how many of the arguments against the Nature Restoration Law are based on complete misinformation," said Guy Pe'er, a scientist at Germany's Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research.

"If the [EU] parliament cannot adopt this law, it may end up not only as a colossal EU failure but even a global embarrassment," he said, criticising the power of lobbyists over science and facts.

For its part, the farm union Copa-Cogeca welcomed the stalemate vote in the environment committee, saying it sent a strong signal to the EU executive. They dubbed the law as "an initiative that is poorly constructed, has no coherent, clear or dedicated budget".

EPP under fire

Previously, the EPP was accused of blackmailing their own members who refused to follow the party's line in the committee vote — and setting a precedent for political manoeuvring by substituting committee members for those who will follow the line.

The same accusations were raised again by the chair of the environment committee after the vote on Tuesday.

Of 21 EPP MEPs in the environment committee, at least seven members were replaced by centre-right lawmakers from other committees such as the agriculture committee.

"Today Manfred Weber succeeded in manipulating the vote by preventing EPP MEPs in favour of Europe's first nature restoration law from voting in Com ENVI," said French Renew MEP Pascal Canfin, pointing out that Tuesday's vote was "meaningless".

He also expressed optimism for the plenary in July, arguing that the centre-right party will not be able to replace its own EPP members in that vote.

Yet, the EPP is still the largest group in the parliament and striking a deal over the nature restoration law would depend on how many members dare to break the party line in the plenary vote.

The fate of the law ultimately hinges on the whole parliament — but the commission has previously warned lawmakers that there is no time to table a new proposal.

"We will not come up with another proposal. Time simply isn't there. We have made our proposal and we are open for discussions about the content of that proposal," EU Commission Green Deal chief Frans Timmermans told MEPs in the environment committee earlier in May.

Double rejection for EU flagship nature restoration plan

MEPs from the agriculture and fisheries committees have voted to reject the nature restoration proposal — a key proposal that aims to halt biodiversity loss and reverse the degradation of ecosystems in the bloc.

Row over EPP 'blackmailing' MEPs on eve of nature vote

The centre-right European People's Party (EPP) denied any form of blackmailing — after the chair of the environment committee accused the EPP chair of threatening his own members with political retaliation if they vote for the controversial restoration law.

MEPs denounce EPP 'fake news' on eve of key nature vote

MEPs will determine the future of the Nature Restoration Law on Wednesday — amid a concerted pushback led by the European People's Party (EPP), which has been accused of poisoning the debate with fake news.


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